Hoist an overnight pack in Eastern America's highest mountains. Read the brief intros below - then follow the links for complete trail guides to these great backpacking sites near Boone, NC.
The Appalachian Trail - the "AT" - is 85 years old in 2022. It is without a doubt one of the world's most iconic trail adventures. Every serious hiker aspires to hike the Appalachian Trail.
From Elk Park, near Banner Elk, to Roan Mountain, the AT crosses the biggest, most alpine-appearing expanse of the Southern Balds, where views reach all over Western North Carolina. Don't miss this awesome dozen or more miles of hiking, perhaps best enjoyed by backpackers.
There are three backpacking shelters, including one in a converted barn! Campsites are located in many other places as well, some near mile-high summits in expansive meadows with wonderfully waving grasses. Various springs offer water along the way. In winter, this hike is a true mountaineering experience. Cross-country skiers often try the AT across these peaks.
Jump to our Boone Area Appalachian Trail Guide.
Grandfather's rocky ridge rises almost a vertical mile above valleys to the East making for impressive views of dramatic drops. Many spots on the Grandfather Trail and Daniel Boone Scout Trail have ladders that climb rocky spots and even cliff faces.
The mountain has 13 backcountry campsites, many with tent platforms, and the Hi-Balsam backpacking shelter. The state park trails are only open during daylight hours, but backpack campers are permitted to park at valley trailheads and spend the night. Camping is only permitted at these designated sites and registration is required, but can be made as late as the same day. Register for a campsite at this link.
Among the great campsites are nice flat spots beside the famous Grandfather profile, a tent platform atop Attic Window Peak, and a perch on the craggy ridge in an alpine meadow. More platforms are found in the Boone Bowl Valley below the great views of Storyteller's Rock (many easy to reach). Near the mountain's highest peak, the rustic Hi-Balsam Shelter sleeps about five people.
Jump to our complete guide to Grandfather Mountain's trails.
If you're "up" for going down, Linville Gorge Wilderness - the Grand Canyon of the East - is a memorable encounter with true wilderness. This rugged chasm has never been logged, so virgin, gnarled forests cling to this cleft. This area is so pristine and wild-it was one of the original wilderness tracts designated when the Wilderness Act was passed in 1964.
Far below, the Linville River tumbles into big pools. Fishing and hunting are permitted, but backpackers rule the roost. There are many campsites in "the Gorge" amid truly primeval scenery. There's a US Forest Service information cabin near the Gorge that dispenses information (828-765-7550) and camping permits that are required on weekends.
Elk Knob State Park has 6 backcountry campsites and two group campsites. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and cannot be reserved. A self-registration box is located at the backcountry trailhead. These are primitive campsites located about a mile or two from the trailhead with no facilities. Be sure to pack out everything you bring with you.
Don't miss this state park's summit trail that reaches the top of Elk Knob for some of the best views in the Boone Area. The park is just minutes north of Boone.
Jump to our complete trail guide to Elk Knob State Park.
There are only two places on the Blue Ridge Parkway to backpack in North Carolina, and they're both in the Boone Area!
Doughton Park, north of Boone, offers a designated backcountry campground in the beautiful Basin Cove Area. There are numerous sites and a privy. A permit is required, available from the park's developed campground.
It's great to camp at the backpack sites, stay a number of days, and hike the large system of spectacular trails that surround the camping area. One such hike reaches isolated Caudill Cabin, a late 1800s cabin built when the area contained a vibrant community (it was decimated by a flood in 1916). Chimneys and other ruins remain. For information, call 336-372-8568.
There is also a nice backcountry campsite in the wilds of Price Park that can be reached on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. That campsite also requires a permit, available at the auto campground in Price Park beside Price Lake (a great place to camp before or after a backpacking trip). For information, call the campground at 828-963-5911. To find a map of the Price Park camping area, click here.
Section 5 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail stretches about 85 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway's Beacon Heights to Stone Mountain State Park, north of the area. Most of this section follows the Blue Ridge Parkway's path, past the iconic Linn Cove Viaduct on the Tanawha Trail and to the base of Grandfather Mountain. The MST follows the carriage trails at Moses Cone Memorial Park, enters the Bamboo area of Boone, and continues on to E.B. Jeffress and Doughton Parks. While most of the MST is just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, at times it does cross the roadways and routes hikers along the shoulder of roads. Use caution on these stretches of the trail.
Camping is limited to designated areas. Permits are required at Grandfather Mountain State Park and National Park Service backcountry sites. Other campgrounds along the trail include Julian Price Campground, Doughton Park, and four additional campgrounds between Jefferson and Laurel Springs.